Let’s Walk

22nd Nov 2016

Cerro Santa LuciaWe have always enjoyed city walking tours, as they are interesting and you often learn facts not found in guide books and hear the opinions of the guide. Today we opted for the morning ‘Offbeat Santiago’ Tours4tips tour and were ready at Bellas Artes Museum at the allotted hour. The tour includes markets and the cemetery, two of our favourite places. First we learn about earthquakes and are told that tremors are quite frequent, although we have not felt any whilst we have been in Chile. Ivana, today’s guide, told us about her experience back in 2010, the earthquake we heard about when we were further south.

Beautiful flower arrangementsOn the way to the market we stopped at Esmerelda Plaza to learn about the history of the neighbourhoods. Santiago originally developed on one back of the Mapocho River. When more buildings were needed the Chileans (well, Spanish) began developing across the river, where the main local markets are now situated. The fish market however is still on the city side of the river and not much room for our big group, as well as the locals going about there business. Chileans are very friendly and happily put up with tour groups passing through, which is a daily occurrence.

Cheerfully cooking SopaillasAcross the river, we walk through the colourful flower market on our way to the main halls full of firstly meat and then fruit and vegetables. I was a bit disappointed as it was nothing special compared to markets we have seen in other towns and cities on our travels over the years. The fruit and veg was not neatly laid out in a photographically pleasing array and there were no carcasses hanging. Ivana did comment that Chileans preferred to be haphazard rather than neat and regimented. More interesting was to watch sopaipillas, tasty pumpkin bread being cooked. We all had a taste, a nice touch in our tour. The ladies were quite happy to be photographed carrying out the cooking process.

Inside a huge mausoleumBy now our group had grown to about 22 of us, which was interesting on the metro, firstly everyone buying tickets and then negotiating the barriers. A nice touch to give tourists a hands on experience of the metro, so they know how to use it on their own later. Of course Dave and I already know the ropes and had our Bip! cards so did not need to buy a ticket. At least it was a quiet time of day, so we easily found room in one compartment and were soon chatting to a couple from Nottingham and a chap from Tasmania about travelling. It was only two stops to Cementerio station but we almost missed it engrossed in our conversation.

From the big to the very smallAt the cemetery, it was interesting to learn more about the concrete rows of graves. The cemetery in Santiago covers an area equivalent to 117 football pitches and is huge. Even so, space can be an issue and so they introduced three storey buildings. Also after five years a second body can be added to a grave. The most known to be in one small grave is twelve bodies, the first in 1909. This is the cheapest option as sites are expensive.

Opulent?At the other extreme are huge mausoleums which hold only one or two bodies. They must cost a fortune for the families, but as they believe there is life after death, they want the best for their departed loved ones. This also explains the gifts and decorations that can be seem. I asked about one large mausoleum inscribed with ‘Carabineros’ over the entrance and if I understood correctly this is where the higher ranks police officials are buried and also those who died in active service.

1973 was not that long agoTime to listenBefore leaving the cemetery we all sat beside the mausoleum for Salvador Allende and heard about him and his downfall by General Pinochet. Was it suicide or not? No one will know for certain but either way his time was up that day. We had a great morning learning more about Santiago and Chile, offbeat style.

Climbing up that hillAfter a relaxing lunch back in the apartment we decided we really ought to get out for the afternoon and “do stuff”. There is a hill close by so “let’s climb that” says Dave. Half way up he adds, “so, what is up there?”, he failed with the 7P rule! There is a maze of paths criss-crossing each other leading to various plazas, a church and a castle. We spent an enjoyable hour just wandering about and looking for those interesting photos.

Palacio de la MonedaWriting this I can see why I was so tired at the end of the day, as we crammed a lot in. After the hill we then headed off to see the Palace and the main plaza. We could not get close to the Palacio de la Moneda as the square at the front was cordoned off and surrounded by Chinese wearing red caps. It turned out that the Chinese President was visiting and we had just missed him, as they were rolling up the red carpet.

Inside the cathedralWe then headed on to the main Plaza which we remembered from last time, but still wandered around pointing cameras in various directions. A quick visit into the cathedral was worth it to see that we had returned to the opulence left by the Spanish rulers. Tired but content we walked back to our apartment, which was only a few blocks away. As ever there is more that we could have seen but my legs were complaining and it was gone 6pm (aka beer o’clock) by then.

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